Renfrewshire Council

St David's primary school classroom assistants with pupils

Education Scotland Attainment Advisor, Emma McGill: professional learning, classroom assistants and raising attainment

Education Scotland Attainment Advisor, Emma McGill, says Renfrewshire's innovative professional learning programme is helping classroom assistants raise attainment.

Funding from the Scottish Attainment Challenge is helping to raise the attainment of pupils in Renfrewshire through an innovative professional learning programme for classroom assistants.

Attainment Advisors from Education Scotland have been working in schools across Scotland to support the delivery of the Challenge since its launch five years ago. They play a strong role in linking the work of Education Scotland, Scottish Government and Local Authorities to improve educational attainment and to reduce the attainment gap between children from the least and most socially disadvantaged backgrounds.

Classroom Assistants have an important role in raising children's attainment, reducing the attainment gap and ensuring the emotional and social wellbeing of pupils - but an evaluation exercise undertaken by Renfrewshire Council found that many assistants felt that they lacked the necessary training to help them achieve this and support pupils' learning.

The literacy and numeracy and mathematics development officers at Renfrewshire Council worked in partnership with Professor Sue Ellis and the University of Strathclyde to devise and deliver a comprehensive professional learning programme for classroom assistants.

Assistants received intensive training exploring aspects of literacy and numeracy including reading comprehension strategies and developing a positive maths mindset, and then worked alongside classroom teachers to implement what they have learned and put the teachings from each session into action with pupils. 

More than 50 classroom assistants have so far undertaken literacy and numeracy training. At the end of the programme a celebration event is held to share and acknowledge the efforts of each participant with classroom assistants receiving certificates for the completion of the course, and working in groups to create learning displays to share with colleagues and family members.

Whilst, it is difficult to separate the impact of the classroom assistants on attainment from other professional learning and interventions,  the programme has been shown to improve the consistency of approaches to literacy and numeracy and mathematics across schools. The programme has also increased the confidence of classroom assistants and empowered them to provide even greater support to pupils.   

Here is what the professionals are saying:

Sue Ellis, Professor of Education at the University of Strathclyde

"We know from this programme that Classroom Assistants are hard-working and dedicated, often giving up their own time to benefit children.  They gain unique insights into children's lives, friendships, enthusiasms and feelings, all of which, if used well by the school, impact on learning and attainment.  They deserve training opportunities and a career structure, and it makes sense for school leaders to consider how they organise Classroom Assistants' work to allow them time to liaise with teachers."

Hilary Paterson, Head Teacher of Heriot Primary School

"At Heriot Primary School, our Classroom Assistants are highly valued members of our team.  All of our Classroom Assistants have undertaken the comprehensive programme of professional learning delivered in partnership by Renfrewshire Council and the University of Strathclyde.  The programme has strengthened their knowledge of literacy and numeracy approaches that effectively raise attainment for all pupils, ensuring greater consistency between teachers and support staff."

Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive at Education Scotland

"Over the past five years our Attainment Advisors have seen a lot of really positive progress being made through the Scottish Attainment Challenge and it is hugely encouraging to see the impact this work is having on the lives of young people across the country. The professional learning programme for classroom assistants is a great example of how partnership working can help improve attainment through innovative approaches to high quality learning and teaching. Closing the attainment gap is vital for a modern, successful Scotland and everyone involved in Scottish education must continue to focus on reducing the impacts of deprivation on educational outcomes."

Published on Tuesday 25 February 2020

Pictured: St David's Primary School classroom assistants with pupils